Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Entry #5: West Philadelphia

West Philadelphia is yet another section of our City of Neighborhoods. Although there are no official boundaries to this area, it is considered to be located between the Schuylkill River to the west, City Line Avenue to the north, and Cobbs Creek to the south. Like most neighborhoods of Philadelphia, West Philly is very diverse in that more than seven different nationalities are represented. Blacks represent the largest population of people living in West Philly with close to 75% of the area, but many other races make up the remaining 25%.

The majority of homes in West Philadelphia are row houses. These houses were originally built by contractors whose goals were to make adequate-sized homes while taking up less lot space in order to fit more homes. Today, these connected houses contribute to tight-knit neighborhoods and streets within the West Philly community. The residents are able to maintain good relationships among one another and help to protect each other from crime.

Transportation is also important to West Philadelphia residents. Many of SEPTA’s regional rail lines offer easy access to those needing to travel throughout the Philadelphia area. Also, trolleys are available throughout most of the streets found in this neighborhood. However, the most important transportation line through West Philly is found above ground. Nicknamed the “El”, this elevated subway rail links West Philadelphia to many other neighborhoods in the city. It is most often used by residents who need to get to work and students who attend school at one of the city’s many universities.

University City, the easternmost portion of the West Philadelphia neighborhood, provides a fairly stark contrast to the rest of the neighborhood. Located between the Schuylkill River and 50th street to the east and west, Spring Garden St. and Powelton Ave. to the north and Civic Center Blvd, Woodland Ave, and University Ave to the south, the region contains a large population of young adults, as is suggested by its name. Encompassing Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, University City was christened in the mid 1950s in an effort to encourage Penn faculty to live in the nearby historic Victorian homes. Today, it is an up-and-coming area, but is still surrounded by some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods. However, the University of Pennsylvania is working with the community to help rebuild the area.

Located at 34th and Girard encompassing the site of William Penn’s grandson’s house, the 42 acre Philadelphia Zoo is a major landmark in the West Philadelphia neighborhood. Though the charter establishing the Zoological Society of Philadelphia was approved on March 21, 1859, the zoo’s opening was delayed due to the Civil War. But on July 1, 1874 America’s first zoo, housing just 813 animals, opened to over 3000 visitors, each adult paying only 25 cents. Today, the Philadelphia Zoo welcomes about 1.1 million visitors a year (making it one of Philadelphia’s most popular attractions) and houses more than 1300 animals. Popular exhibits today include the PECO Primate Reserve, the Channel 6 Zooballoon, the Carnivore Kingdom, and Bank of America Big Cat Falls.

Photo Credits: Taylor Duscha and Victoria Tatum

Writing Credits: Dan Weick and Barbara Cushig


Hughes, S. (1997, November 13). The West philadelphia story. The Philadelphia Gazette, 96(2), Retrieved on November 29, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/1197/philly.html

(1963). West Philadelphia: The genesis of “the city across the river.” Retrieved on November 28, 2009. Retrieved from: http://www.uchs.net/Rosenthal/wphila.html

(2009). About America's first zoo. Retrieved on November 29, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.philadelphiazoo.org/about/AboutZoo.htm

(2009). About University city. Retrieved on November 29, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.universitycity.org/about_ucity

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Entry #4: Germantown

The Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia is a very old and historic section. Famous for its cobblestone streets and colonial era architecture, Germantown still maintains its historic appearance despite its recent urbanization. The neighborhood was originally settled in 1683 by German-speaking Mennonite and Quaker immigrants from Germany, Holland and Switzerland. It stretches for about two miles along both sides of Germantown Avenue from the Tioga/Nicetown sections of Philadelphia, at Windrim Avenue and SEPTA's Wayne Junction northwest, to Upsal Street and the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia. The Westside of Germantown Ave. was once considered Germantown, while the Eastside was known as East Germantown. Today it is all one neighborhood.

Germantown played a major role in the Revolutionary War and the Battle of Germantown took place here. Though the Continental Army lost the battle, it was a major victory nonetheless because it led France to officially recognize America as an independent nation, becoming our ally. The neighborhood was also important during the early years of our nation. While Philadelphia was our national capital, President George Washington rented the Deshler-Morris House in Germantown to escape the central city and the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. The first bank of the United States was also located in Germantown during his administration. Other famous historical landmarks include Rittenhouse Town, the nation’s first paper mill; the Johnson House, a stop on the Underground Railroad; and Upsala, a mansion built on the site of the Continental Army encampment during the Battle of Germantown.

Starting in as early as the 1930s, Germantown began to see a change in demographics when poorer African Americans from the south moved into the neighborhood in search of employment. Today, the neighborhood remains predominantly African American and its residents show little sign of the neighborhood’s former German immigrant population. However, residents still remain dedicated to the preservation of its historic landmarks, many of which are now open to the public.

Writing by Peter Adonizio and Barbara Cushing

Editing by Bree Deibler

Photo Credits: Carmen Emmi and Taylor Duscha


Fischer, John. (n.d.). Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Retrieved November 2, 2009. Retrieved from http://philadelphia.about.com/od/neighborhoods/p/germantown.htm

(1995, July 4). Historic germantown: philadelphia, pa. Retrieved November 3, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.ushistory.org/germantown/index.htm

Seeley, Robert A. (n.d.). Discover germantown. Retrieved on November 3, 2009. Retrieved from http://www.givewings.com/germantown/index.html

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Entry #3: South Philadelphia

South Philadelphia has always been a neighborhood of cultural diversity. Beginning with its roots in the early nineteenth-century, the neighborhood saw rise to an Irish immigrant population during the Industrial Revolution. This increase of immigrants paved the roads for a large industrial base which later attracted more diverse cultures to the area. “Immigrants from around the globe flooded to the docks in Philadelphia and New York during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries hoping to find work in the regions burgeoning mills and coal fields” (“Industrial Revolution”, p. 1, 2009). Even today, there is a strong influence of diverse cultures that are undeniably vital to the neighborhood’s social structure. Today, visitors can clearly see the strong cultural identities of the area. For example, the Vietnamese population is strikingly identifiable in specific areas, which can be seen in surrounding businesses and restaurants. A strong Italian influence can be seen in places such as the Italian Market and other neighborhood icons.

Arguably the strongest cultural influence in South Philadelphia today is that of the Italian heritage. Starting with the immigrants of the nineteenth-century, many Italian-Americans have called South Philadelphia their home, thus affirming their place in the neighborhood. Visitors can see the clear cultural identity through several Italian venues including the famous marketplace.

“… the Italian Market has an incredibly strong Italian heritage—which can still be seen today throughout the stores, restaurants and neighborhood in general” (“The Italian Market , p. 1, 2009). Although the Italian culture is arguably the most predominate of South Philadelphia, other cultures such as that of the Vietnamese is making a striking impact.

After generations of Italian immigrants first moved into the neighborhood, several Vietnamese citizens immigrated to the area for various reasons, some specifically seeking refuge from the Vietnam War. Today, visitors can still see the Vietnamese-American population’s ties to their former homeland. “As the Vietnamese-American population in the tri-state area continues to grow, the Vietnamese shops, restaurants, businesses and organizations in South Philadelphia serve as a touchstone and cultural hub for the community as it continues to develop into a flourishing and fascinating Philadelphia neighborhood” (“History of Vietnamese-Americans in Philadelphia”, p. 1, 2009). The culture remains so prevalent in the area that many residents still choose to use the language from their home country. While South Philadelphia has seen a rise in new and different cultures, some businesses remain an institution of the neighborhood.

One of the biggest draws to South Philly is its world-famous cheese steak. Whether you prefer a “Whiz wit” (referring to a sandwich with cheese whiz and onions) or an “American witout” (American cheese and no onions), there are countless variations of these beloved steak sandwiches. Two of the most well-known venues, Pat’s Steaks and Geno’s Steaks, are popular not only to native Philadelphians, but also those who make the trip to Philadelphia’s staple. Owners Joey Vento (Geno’s) and Frank Oliveri, Jr. (Pat’s) have continually debated as to which restaurant offers the better sandwich and have even participated in a taste test of the other’s steak, only to immediately spit it out in disgust. Located across from one another on 9th and Passyunk Ave, the two cheese steak hotspots share a highly publicized rivalry. In fact, Geno’s Steaks has come under some controversy and made national headlines when they began forcing all costumers to order in English or face refusal of service. For such a culturally diverse neighborhood, this lack of acceptance caused a media frenzy and actually boosted the restaurant’s notoriety.

Although Philadelphia has been called the “city of neighborhoods,” South Philadelphia is arguably the most diverse. From the Italian Market to Vietnamese plazas, one could clearly perceive the cultural abundance and identity that exists in the neighborhood.

Text Written by Carmen Emmi, Taylor Duscha, and Dan Weick.

Photos Credited to Sarah Fry and Victoria Tatum

Works Cited:

(2009). History of vietnamese-americans in philadelphia. Retrieved October 16, 2009 from http://www.gophila.com/C/Your_Philadelphia/14/Diverse_Philadelphia/287/Asian_American_Philadelphia/277/Asian_American_History_in_Philadelphia/327/The_History_of_Vietnamese_Americans_in_Philadelphia/331.html

(2009). Industrial revolution . Retrieved Oct. 16, 2009, from http://www.schuylkillriver.org/Industrial_Revolution.aspx

(2009). The italian market. Retrieved October 16, 2009 from http://gophila.com/C/Dining_and_nightlife/223/u/The_Italian_Market/1170.html

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Entry #2: Chinatown

The Chinatown neighborhood in Philadelphia is a predominantly Asian-American section of the Center City district. The neighborhood is located between Vine Street to the north, Race Street to the south, 8th Street to the east, and 11th Street to the west. While it does span several city blocks, it is comparatively smaller to other neighborhoods like it in United State cities. Although Chinatown is a big tourist attraction, it is also a thriving neighborhood where families live, work, learn and socialize.

The Chinatown Friendship Gate, located at 10th and Arch Street, is a historic, internationally recognized symbol of friendship between Philadelphia and its sister city Tianjin, China. The Gate can be seen from blocks away, and was the first authentic Chinese arch to be built by Chinese artisans in 1984. The Gate is 40 feet tall, weighs about 88 tons, and displays mythical creatures and patterns from the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Chinatown is home to roughly 3,000 residents. It has several of the top Chinese restaurants in Philadelphia, but many Malaysian, Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese culinary institutes as well. Besides the Arch, another popular attraction is the History of Chinatown Mural. Arturo Ho painted the mural to celebrate Chinatown’s 125th anniversary in 1995. The mural is located on the southeast corner of 10th and Winter Streets.

The neighborhood is not only famous for its restaurants and public art, but also for its ability to maintain a unique culture within a diverse city. China and surrounding Asian cultures maintain their cultural distinction because of the importance put on the practice by generations past. Beginning in the mid-seventeenth century and continuing on for 200 years, China and surrounding nations cut their citizens off from surrounding society, bringing them into a period of severe cultural insularity. Because of the strong emphasis put on pure Asian cultures, many Asian-Americans still speak the language of their homelands and practice the traditions and customs of their native countries. Many immigrants also strive to instill the knowledge and beliefs of their home countries in a younger generation. This can be seen throughout Chinatown during such events as the Moon Festival and Chinese New Year.

Text Written by Taylor Duscha and Peter Adonizio

Photos Credited to Victoria Tatum and Bree Deibler

Editor: Dan Weick


(2006). Tradition And Change In East Asia. Retrieved from: <http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0072957549/student_view0/chapter27/>.

Fischer, John (2009). Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia. Retrieved from: <http://philadelphia.about.com/od/neighborhoods/p/chinatown.htm>

Monday, September 21, 2009

Entry 1: Old City

Old City is one of the nation’s most historic areas dating back to William Penn’s settlement in the late 17th century. With historical monuments and locations such as Independence Hall, the Betsy Ross House, the Ben Franklin House, and Elfreth’s Alley, this area is a prime tourist attraction and home to some of the city’s wealthiest. Surrounded by the Front and 6th Streets and Walnut and Vine Streets, the area is categorized by cobblestone streets and old picturesque colonial townhouses. While not geographically the center, Old City is the heartbeat of Philadelphia because it is where the city first began.

Elfreth’s Alley, located between 2nd and Front Streets, is often referred to as the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the country, dating back to the early 1700s. While today it is a predominantly white upper-middle class neighborhood, it was once a working class area filled with blacksmiths, glassblowers, shipwrights, and other craftsmen. Named after Jeremiah Elfreth, a local blacksmith, the area was once the center for shipping goods to the North and South via 2nd Street. After many years of prosperity and ethnic rotation, the area suffered a period of economic decline. However, the Elfreth’s Alley Association was founded in 1934 to bring the homes back to their original historic state. Currently, Elfreth’s Alley features a close-knit community and strong tourist base, all with the common goal of preserving the alley.

Independence Hall, easily the most recognizable historic Philadelphia landmark, was once the home of the Liberty Bell and the Second Continental Congress. Located on Chestnut Street between 5th and 6th Streets, the building is a main tourist attraction, drawing thousands of visitors each year. The hall is a part of Independence Square and its historical context radiates throughout the rest of Old City, serving as one of the neighborhood’s major focal points. Unlike Washington DC landmarks, Independence Hall dates back to the beginning of our nation’s history, thus solidifying its national and local appeal.

While a predominantly white area, Old City is usually categorized by its historical appeal and colonial architecture than the cultural background of its residents. Though there does not seem to be the same unity as in other neighborhoods, the people of Old City are bound by their interests in preserving the area’s historic nature. This supports the claim that the people of a neighborhood must share similar beliefs and values. As seen from Elfreth’s Alley’s history, the residents of Old City have changed over time. Originally founded by the working man, it currently features white upper-middle class citizens. It is important to emphasize that Old City is really the nation’s neighborhood in that it has a strong tourist base. Without this interest, it can be said that this region would not be thriving like it is today. Old City will continue to thrive due to the cohesive efforts of preservation.

Text Written by Carmen Emmi and Barbara Cushing

Photos Credited to Sarah Fry


(2009). History of Elfreth's Alley. Retrieved from http://www.elfrethsalley.org/history

(2009). Elfreth's Alley neighborhood in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA), 19106 detailed profile. Retrieved from http://www.city-data.com/neighborhood/Elfreth-s-Alley-Philadelphia-PA.html

Van Allen, Peter (2004, August 6). Elfreth's Alley: Living on the oldest street. Philadelphia Business Journal, Retrieved from http://philadelphia.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/stories/2004/08/09/story5.html

(2009, August 30). History and Culture: Welcome to Independence. Retrieved from http://www.nps.gov/inde/historyculture/index.html


A city neighborhood is usually defined as an area which includes people of the same economic status, beliefs or cultures. In Philadelphia, it seems that this belief rings true. While this does provide strong diversity due to the vast amount of culture, it unfortunately paves the way for segregated communities. While the word “segregation” could imply tension between races, it seems in Philadelphia that this seems to apply more to economic status. In our analysis of five major neighborhoods in Philadelphia- Old City, Chinatown, South Philadelphia, West Philadelphia and Germantown- our team will shed light on these contrasting areas to show how unique and separate they truly are.